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Jewish World Review Sept. 21, 2001 / 4 Tishrei, 5762

Michael Ledeen

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Creative destruction -- DESPITE all the easy talk about a new kind of terrorism, and a new kind of war, the models for what we have experienced and what we must do are quite old. The terrorists adopted the methods of the 1940s - kamikazes - with a bit of 1950s brainwashing added to produce a number of Manchurian Candidates. We dealt with the original kamikazes by improving our defenses so as to kill them before they hit us, and by destroying the country that launched them. We have to do that again.

Unless you have been gulled by the leaks from the misnamed intelligence community, you know that the terrorists represent the long arm of evil regimes. We therefore have a dual task: Kill the terrorists, and destroy the regimes that provide them with the critical infrastructure - training, safe havens, travel documents, technology, and all the rest - they need to operate.

The hunt for the terrorists is a technical matter, and we must hope that our military has enough virtue left from the Clinton ravages to do the job. But we should have no misgivings about our ability to destroy tyrannies. It is what we do best. It comes naturally to us, for we are the one truly revolutionary country in the world, as we have been for more than 200 years. Creative destruction is our middle name. We do it automatically, and that is precisely why the tyrants hate us, and are driven to attack us.

So we begin with an enormous advantage. The tyrants fear us, and their oppressed peoples want what we have to offer: freedom. Yes, there are the fanatics, both religious and political. But far too much has been made of the presumed religious fanaticism of our Middle Eastern enemies. Saddam Hussein is not at all a religious leader. His fame and charisma rest on his political and military power, and when the Palestinians dance in the streets, carrying banners with his portrait, and sing odes to Saddam, it is not because of his Islamic faith. It is because of his murderous success. He challenged us, he took our biggest punch and survived, and he now carries the battle to us once again.

And yet he fears us, for he knows that his own people would remove him in a heartbeat if only they could. And the Taliban fear us too, the Taliban who have slaughtered and enslaved the women of Afghanistan with a systematic sadism that would make Stalin proud, and would warm the cockles of the Ayatollah Khomeini's lifeless heart. And the mullahs and ayatollahs in Tehran fear us, for they know that not one of them could survive a free election in Iran.

Freedom is our most lethal weapon, and the oppressed peoples of the fanatic regimes are our greatest assets. They need to hear and see that we are with them, and that the Western mission is to set them free, under leaders who will respect them and preserve their freedom. The president has brilliantly stressed our respect for Islam, and our conviction that the majority of Muslims are peace-loving people. He should direct Secretary Powell to fully support democratic resistance movements in the terrorist countries, and, failing that, to support more moderate, more pro-Western forces. You cannot remove a regime without having a new one ready to go.

These forces exist. In Afghanistan, the Northern Alliance, despite the assassination of its historic leader Massoud, is still a force to be reckoned with, and they have offered us their support in dislodging the Taliban. And there are others, including the deposed king, still formally recognized as the legitimate ruler of Afghanistan by most of the civilized world. In Iraq, we have halfheartedly supported an umbrella organization, the Iraqi National Congress, under the outstanding leadership of Ahmed Chalabi.

Yet the State Department, as recently as yesterday, was still telling them that they must not, under any circumstances, operate inside Iraq. That is sheer folly, for it guarantees that we get the worst of both worlds: We enrage Saddam even further, but ensure that we won't be able to get close to his throat. The president should order these embarrassing restrictions removed, give full support to this democratic resistance movement, and encourage the downtrodden and long suffering Iraqi people to join Chalabi and win their freedom.

In Afghanistan, as in Iraq, we must not think in the unworthy terms of a mere military strike against al Qaeda and its phantasmagorical leader, Osama bin Laden. We want the destruction of the Taliban, without which bin Laden could not have operated.

In other words, it is time once again to export the democratic revolution. To those who say it cannot be done, we need only point to the 1980s, when we led a global democratic revolution that toppled tyrants from Moscow to Johannesburg. Then, too, the smart folks said it could not be done, and they laughed at Ronald Reagan's chutzpah when he said that the Soviet tyrants were done for, and called on the West to think hard about the post-Communist era. We destroyed the Soviet Empire, and then walked away from our great triumph in the Third World War of the Twentieth Century. As I sadly wrote at that time, when America abandons its historic mission, our enemies take heart, grow stronger, and eventually begin to kill us again. And so they have, forcing us to take up our revolutionary burden, and bring down the despotic regimes that have made possible the hateful events of the 11th of September.

The only consolation is that we know how to do it. And, miraculously, we have some leaders who understand the historic opportunity they hold in their hands.

JWR contributor Michael Ledeen is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and author of Tocqueville on American Character . Comment by clicking here.


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07/31/01: Consulting a legendary counterspy about Chandra and Condit, cont'd
07/19/01: Be careful what you wish for
07/17/01: Consulting a legendary counterspy about Chandra and Condit
07/05/01: Let Slobo Go
05/30/01: Anybody out there afraid of the Republicans?
05/09/01: The bad guys to the rescue
05/07/01: Bye-bye, Blumenthal
04/20/01: Handling China
04/11/01: EXAM TIME!
04/05/01: Chinese over-water torture
03/27/01: Fighting AIDS in Africa is a losing proposition
03/14/01: Big Bird, Oscar, and other threats
03/09/01: Time for a good, old-fashioned purge
03/06/01: Powell’s great (mis)adventure
02/26/01: The Clinton Sopranos
02/20/01: Unity Schmoonity: Sharon is defying the will of the people
01/30/01: The Rest of the Rich Story
01/22/01: Ashcroft the Jew
01/11/01: A fitting close to the Clinton years
12/26/00: Continuing Clinton's shameful legacy
12/21/00: Clinton’s gift for Bush

© 2001, Michael Ledeen